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Where will the change come from?

By Albert Thyrniang

On January 5, last Patricia Mukhim wrote, “Political change: A case of self-deception”. She ended her column, “…are we going to re-elect the corrupt that have misused their MLA schemes, abused their office of minister? These are questions that call for a spirited public debate.” Perhaps she was inspired by a religious leader’s message on Christmas and New Year Eve calling for change in the political set up in state after the February 2018 Assembly polls while deploring the irksome practice of public representatives distributing freebies while neglecting, and forgetting their primary duty of legislation and framing policies that empower the poor and the marginalised for the long run.

This article is written in the light of the above article. The question is, where will the change come from? We have the same politicians (at least the prominent ones) only changing political parties. It is expected that they will occupy high positions after the new government is formed. Will they change the way they run the state and their constituencies? Will they focus on legislation and policies or will their carry on the 40 year practice of distributing Galvanized Iron (GI) sheets?  

These days the state is witnessing an exodus from the Congress Party. Those at the exit door include heavyweights. They have re-launched their political careers by riding on the bandwagon of change and are trying to impress upon their electorate this need for change. While on election campaign trails they will be harping on the same theme forgetting they are the very same persons in a different political party. Let us have a look at the prominent ones.

Pynthorumkhrah’s legislator, AL Hek has once again done a ‘ghar wapsi’. Opportunistic as he is he has again ditched the Congress and embraced the BJP. In the past I have more than once read about him on this page of being a full time businessman and a part time MLA. Will there be change in him? As a saffron party’s legislator and minister will his priorities be his personal business interests or the welfare of the state?

Ex-South Shillong MLA, Sanbor Shullai’s singular achievement was nepotism. He is accused of appointing his kith and kin in the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly Secretariat without following the procedure of recruitment thus misusing his position, power and authority. A FIR has been filed against him. He has no qualms in accepting the allegation. The former NCP MLA will now contest the election on BJP ticket. Can we expect change from him? How come a party that claims to be different from others welcomes such tainted politicians into its fold?

Other former MLAs who have now donned the lotus symbol and erected the saffron flag on their luxury cars are Justine Dkhar from Khliehriat, Robinus Syngkon from Mowkaiaw (both Independents) from Jaintia Hills and Billykid Sangma, Adolf Lu Hitler Marak  (former Congressmen), John Manner Marak, and Omillo K Sangma (former NPP members) from Garo Hills. Even if they win they might not have the calibre to contribute much in ushering change even in their constituencies, much less in the state. They might just add to the numbers that are required to form another government.

In the January 4 rally in the famed Polo Ground the NPP showed its strength. It had captured eight ex-MLAs, five from the ‘demoralised’ Congress, one from the United Democratic Party (UDP) and two Independents.

Rowell Lyngdoh is from Mawkyrwat.  He was the former deputy chief minister. In 2012 he was found dozing as he was not even aware that the then West Khasi Hills, the biggest district in the state was not divided even as South West Garo Hills and East Jaintia Hills were declared new districts. Fortunately the Chief Minister spared him the blushes by creating South West Khasi Hills in the same year after a mild protest. Due to his incompetence he was sacked as Deputy Chief Minister in August 2016.

For the last 14 years my annual home visits have been an endless annoyance, irritation and anger at the deplorable roads in Mawkyrwat constituency. Whether from Shillong to Mawkyrwat or Nongstoin to Mawkyrwat or Mawkyrwat to Umdohlun they are all ‘rock n roll’ rides. They are indescribable here. Kindly make a visit if you want to get me. Two years ago hope of a ‘world class’ road from Nongstoin to Plangdiloin was dashed to the ground thanks to obstructionist third class NGOs in collaboration with spineless and visionless politicians. South West and West Khasi Hills districts remain one of the most undeveloped districts in the state and the MLA who will try to get re-elected on NPP’s ticket is largely responsible.  Are the electorate fools to believe that such inept and aged politicians will steer the state anew?

Prestone Tynsong from Pynursula was a former cabinet minister. According to the Chief Minister (He is the person who knows best), the former Community and Rural Development minister’s term was mainly spent on journeys to and fro between Shillong and Kolkata. The CM had to step in with key decisions as he was habitually absent from duty it is alleged by the CM. Hence he was removed from the cabinet. Defecting to the NPP, the ‘habitual dissident’ will even hope to be the next Chief Minister but what can he bring on the table for a new Meghalaya?

Others who have deserted their parent party and shifted allegiance to NPP are former ministers Comingone Ymbon (Raliang), Sniawbhalang Dhar (Nartiang) and Ngaitlang Dhar (Umroi), former UDP legislator Remington Pyngrope (Mawkynrew), ex-Independent MLAs, Hopeful Bamon (Sutnga Saipung) and Stephanson Mukhim(Amlarem). What big ideas do they have to change the fate of the state? These, if any, are hidden from the public.

Another veteran who quit the ‘sinking ship’ is the already suspended P N Syiem who has been made PDF’s chief ministerial candidate. The KHADC CEM who was a thorn in the Chief Minister’s flesh over the dual post Act will present himself to the electorate as a hero fighting for the district council as an institution for the indigenous culture, custom, land and forest and rights of traditional headmen. But is he open enough to bring development to the state instead of being caught up with the above issues emotionally?

Syiem represent Mawsynram, also situated in the western part of the Khasi Hills. The roads there are by no means great. No notable development is seen over the years. Two years ago when the proposed Rs 50 crore Weiloi-Rangblang road project that would have passed  through Mawsynram was diverted elsewhere, Syiem did nothing. The KSU pretended to issue threats and staged agitations but now the 40 kilometer center sanctioned scheme that would have immensely benefitted the deprived Mawsynram area is a forgotten past.  Another major two lane road construction from Nongstoin to Plangdiloin was dropped partly because the CM hopeful as KHADC CEM decided to play popular politics and refused to issue NOC certificates to the construction agency. In its place a Rs 20 crore package was promised to repair and construct a much inferior road by the governmentB but this too is a distant memory? Why is no one is asking PN Syiem where the money has gone before the election 2018? The people of South West Khasi Hills will continue to suffer for ages while Syiem might well occupy the CM’s chair. I personally have no faith in the leadership of the ambitious KHADC CEM when he is taking his own area backward.

All the above have blamed the Chief Minister and the Congress for their exit. So it is taken for granted that the Congress will be ousted and the BJP, NPP, UDP/HSPDP and others will be the alternatives. They have rhetorically initiated a narrative of the necessity for change. But what is the change? Is it a mere change of government? Will it only mean the Chief Minister will be a different person? The ministers will be the same manning different or even the same portfolios.  The faces of the BJP are the very former ministers who were part of the ‘incompetent and corrupt’ Congress government. The case is exactly the same with the NPP (at least in Khasi-Jaintia Hills). The UDP/HSPDP and others has absolutely no chance of coming to power as they will draw a blank from Garo Hills. Effectively they have no leader acceptable across the state.

A BJP-NPP-UDP/HSPDP coalition might well be the outcome of this election. In such an eventuality there will be only power struggle with no governance. Even if a party gets a clear mandate, which aspiring MLA will stand up and declare to end the freebee practice and focus on long term and lasting change through ground breaking legislation and policies? The change the people of Meghalaya are longing for will be futile.

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